According to most research I've seen, nearly half of people over 55 have saved less than $50,000. Another survey shows almost half of all Americans aren't contributing to a retirement plan such as an IRA or 401(k).
Most people just don't get serious about saving for retirement until their children have left the nest. Unfortunately, adult children are taking flight later and later these days.
But don't think because you're 50 or older, it's too late to start. In fact, one of the benefits of turning 50 is that the government makes it easier for you to close the savings gap by allowing you to divert extra money to a retirement account at work, or an IRA, or both.
This "catch-up contributions" provision applies to employer-sponsored plans, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and 457(b)s. If you'll hit the big 5-0 by the end of the calendar year and you have one of those plans, the tax laws allow you to contribute an extra $5,500 above the normal $17,000 annual limit. That means you can save up to $22,500 in pretax dollars every year between now and the day you retire.
Even without any portion of the catch-up being matched by your employer, the additional contribution translates into $825 to $1,925 in tax savings (depending on your tax bracket). You'll only pay taxes on the contributions later, when you start taking distributions from the account.
You can also put an extra $1,000 a year into an IRA.
(It's important to note that there are minimum and maximum age and income limits that restrict whether and how much you can contribute to all of these plans. Check with the IRS or a tax professional for details.)
There are, of course, other ways to invest money you've earmarked for retirement, and it's worth discussing your options with a professional to make sure you've chosen the course that makes the most sense for you and your tax situation.